Potential Lineups: Michigan

By Caroline Medley


Today, let’s take a look at the Michigan Wolverines! Losing seniors Briley Casanova, Austin Sheppard and Lindsay Williams, as well as Nichelle Christopherson and India McPeak who’ve transferred out, may be a blow, but it’s one the team can survive. With five stellar new freshmen and the added boost of Paige Zaziski coming in from Arkansas, the team should be able to rise even higher this season.

Two of the three seniors contributed to vault last season at different points in the season, with Sheppard competing a Yurchenko full and Casanova a 1.5. While Michigan will lose one of its 10.0 vaults, it will keep those of Talia Chiarelli and Olivia Karas, who both compete one and a halves as well. Nicole Artz, Brianna Brown and Emma McLean should also return solid fulls. Transfer Zaziski should bring a full of her own, as should freshmen Lexi Funk, Maggie O’Hara and Madison Osman. What’s unknown is whether or not Polina Shchennikova will return her own full. She only did bars the last time she competed elite, but since then, she’s had a tear in her labrum that required surgery just a few short months ago. She’s definitely training again, but what she’ll be capable of at the start of season is questionable.

On bars, the team loses all three seniors as well as Christopherson, who often served as the lineup’s lead-off performer. The Wolverines retain routines from Artz, Brown and Karas, who all reached the
9.9 mark at least once last season. Zaziski can also contribute a 9.9-scoring bar set, as she did at Arkansas last season on two occasions. Freshmen O’Hara and Osman should also be able to contribute, competing similarly constructed routines, each with a high Jaeger, a bail to handstand and a rod-straight double layout dismount. O’Hara has the edge on handstands, but Osman has the more natural

swing. And again, if up to full strength, Shchennikova could definitely be an asset, especially on this event. She competed a Maloney, a Van Leeuwen and a pak salto at her last nationals, so if she’s able to return to bars in college competition, watch for lots of difficult transitions and some elegant form.

The Wolverines suffer the loss of both Casanova and Williams on beam, but maintain five of its lineup mainstays from last season, including Artz, Brown, Chiarelli, Karas and Lauren Marinez. All five of these gymnasts reached the 9.9 mark at least once during the season, most of them twice or more. At Arkansas, Zaziski never quite reached the 9.9 mark, but she consistently scored 9.85 or better. In addition, freshmen Funk, O’Hara and Shchennikova have the potential to contribute. Funk’s cleanliness is her greatest asset, with solid landings on all her tumbling and excellent split positions in her leaps and jumps. O’Hara has some creativity to her routine, performing a difficult Y turn and a split to split full jump combination. And Shchennikova has such a wide variety of skills to choose from if she’s healthy. When she last competed, she used a lot of skills not usually competed at the collegiate level, such as an Onodi, a full-twisting back handspring and a triple twist dismount. Though she may not use all of these difficult skills, her unique vocabulary could definitely be an asset to the beam team.

Floor will have holes left by Casanova, Christopherson and Williams, but particularly Casanova, who had the team’s only double layout last season. The Wolverines will keep most of their E passes though,

with full-ins from Artz and Chiarelli and a double arabian from Karas. Brown and McLean also contributed solid routines to the lineup last year, both scoring at least 9.85 at some point. Freshman Osman also has a full-in she could contribute, keeping Michigan’s total number of E passes at four of six possible. Freshmen Funk, O’Hara, Shchennikova and Samantha Roy could all also potentially contribute on floor. Funk’s

cleanliness in the air will make her case, while O’Hara’s clean landings will be her ace in the hole. Shchennikova has beautiful twisting form, but her tumbling could potentially be impaired by her recovering shoulder. All three girls could use a healthy dose of NCAA performance energy, a kind of “let loose” attitude, but Roy is already there. Her high energy dance is full of on-trend NCAA moves. She’ll definitely be right at home in college competition.

In the all around, last year’s candidates are the likeliest for the job. As a senior this year, Artz will likely again be the team leader, putting her in a great position to captain the Wolverines for the second year in a row. Her top-notch all-around performances will likely lead the way for them as well. Brown and Karas were both underclassman phenoms last year. Karas was named Big 10 Freshman of the Year in 2016,  finishing the regular season ranked tenth in the all around and placing in the top ten on both vault and floor. Zaziski also competed all around in her freshman year at Arkansas when she was named Co-SEC Freshman of the Year. But she’ll need to find her way into the floor lineup if she wants to have another shot. And that might be hard with all the depth there. Chiarelli is also a stellar three-event gymnast, but she hasn’t competed bars at all in college, so it’s less likely she’ll make a bid for the all around.

Tune in tomorrow for our next Big 10 team, the Michigan State Spartans! If you liked what you saw here, check out our potential lineups page here, our previous three series here or previous posts in our Big 10 series below. Leave us a comment or drop us a Tweet if there’s another team you’d like to see covered — we promise to finish Big 10 before moving on to any other teams!

Illinois | Iowa | Maryland

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